I discovered breathwork for the first time about 18 months ago. I had just signed up to a 2 year training in cranio sacral therapy when I found myself at a breathwork workshop, led by the man who was to become my teacher, Anthony Abbgnano and his then partner, now wife, Amy Rachelle.
It's fair to say I didn't really know what to expect the first time I experienced 'conscious connected breathwork', the technique fostered by Anthony's Alchemy Of Breath school of teaching. It's equally fair to say that once I did experience it, it completely blew me away!
I'd had six committed months of practicing yoga by then so I thought I was beginning to understand the breath, mainly through the various yogic pranayama practices there are, however this kind of breathing is something completely different, and generally it opens up some serious personal processing which may not be quite so welcome on the yoga mat!
Having lunch yesterday with my friend and fellow breath worker Suzie, I found myself saying to her "breathwork touches memories and emotions inside us which haven't been properly released or resolved and somehow it releases them. It finds its way to the heart of the feeling and lets it go." We both agreed it has this effect - I've often found spontaneous tears falling in a breathwork session, or a raging scream being released, or a posture being adopted that feels as if there's nothing I can do but adopt it and go with whatever my body is wanting to do. I would go so far as to say that it's often a 'mystical experience.
Breath is our most natural measure of where we're at; without it we are in serious trouble. When we restrict it, we may find we are in deep anxiety, the heart of a panic attack, in shock or experiencing trauma, or simply unaware of how shallow our breath is. Most people take in less than 30% of their lung capacity - quite surprising right?
When I breathed consciously that first time, a close friend I was working with pointed out to me that my out-breath was way way longer than my in-breath and she asked if I was aware of this. I wasn't. It felt as though it reflected something in me, a part of me that was much more comfortable with giving in life rather than receiving. I didn't know how to take a deep breath in and just receive and it was the same in life. I somehow felt that receiving equated to debt, and I had learnt to so successfully protect myself and ensure that I would never be in this perceived position of 'debt', I was therefore rejecting an awful lot of contact that I may have otherwise freely received without this limiting belief.
I began to notice this imbalance in my everyday breathing, in my meditation, in my yoga practices and more. I started to intentionally practice balancing my breath, which inevitably led to more balance in my actions and then in my life too. It's hard to breathe deeply and equally in a balanced way and remain imbalanced on the outside. I guess that's why yogis practice balancing the breath so much too as an integral part of their practice?
The breath is intelligent! It knows how to lead us to wholeness and inner peace. It knows how to restore balance, to cleanse, to purify. It is the thing we contract when in shock or trauma, and the thing we expand when at peace or in balance and flow. It's also something we can learn to explore and use as a fantastic healing tool, in fact, it's possibly the most powerful healing modality I've ever worked with and I've worked with many.
Yogic breath is not the same as breathwork in the field of healing. The kind of breathwork I am trained in is a dynamic intentional healing technique that is practiced in a certain way, in general to achieve a particular set of results leading to the restoration of previously blocked energy, and this energy reserve can be uncovered and then utilised in releasing old trauma from the system, via the breath, leading us to greater vitality and a significantly increased sense of wellbeing
I have seen people release childhood trauma they didn't even know was still driving them. I've seen people experiencing pain in old scars and operation sites that they didn't know were still holding tension. I've seen people weep like babies and howl like wild animals, and I've seen people literally vibrating with the energy that is moving through them after breathing this way for a certain amount of time. In fact, the very thing that called me to cancel my cranio-sacral training and switch to training in breathwork was experiencing that last one for myself; a vibrating energy that ran through and through and through without seeming to ever be likely to stop!
I was in Bali at the time; on holiday and staying in a beautiful retreat where daily breathwork was happening as part of the Alchemy Of Breath teacher training programme. I turned up one morning somewhat haphazardly as I often did to breathwork sessions back then; did I have the energy? Would I rather go out on a scooter ride to a Balinese rice field? Did I even want to look at that 'heavy stuff' anyway? When you are on holiday in a retreat centre like this one, there are plenty of easier and perhaps more tempting options around, but my friend and room mate was breathing that day and she'd never experienced breathwork before, so I decided to take one for the team and support her by being there as well.
I came to breathe that morning taking my place on the mats laid out in the yoga shala. A beautiful flower and incense offering featured in the centre of the space, typically Balinese in its beauty. I love these traditional offerings made daily in Indonesia, the air is always heavy with the fragrance of incense and frangipani, the native flowers. I lay down, exhaled deeply and prepared to surrender to whatever was about to happen.
Without going too deeply into that story, after having what I can only describe as visionary experiences during the breathe, the session culminated in my entire body shaking and vibrating with an energy I have never experienced before or since. By the end of the session as everyone was settling into rest, I was still vibrating wildly. Disorientated and somewhat concerned, I continued to breathe normally to try and right my system again, but some force greater than me, pulled me into the centre of the space to share a story, my story, and in doing so I realised afterwards, I was truly letting it go. In the breathe I had seen and felt the true beauty and potential of this life in human form. I had seen my own connection to Spirit, to God, to whatever you want to call it, and I knew that was the truth, not the stories, the struggle, the hurts or the limiting perceptions most of us continue to carry through our entire lives.
It was in the moments after that session when I knew I wanted to train in this wonderful healing technique, and I also knew that Anthony would be my teacher. I've never known a teacher with such an open, unconditionally loving heart. I usually cry in the presence of that heart energy - it can get embarrassing sometimes!
Now, at the end of my training, I know it was one of the best decisions I've ever made. I love offering breathwork with a passion! I love witnessing people making huge realisations and shifts in their lives. I love that it works for young, old, able bodied or people with disabilities, with war veterans, with assault and abuse victims, with the traumatised, the fearful and the bold too. I just love how the breath takes you exactly where you need to go. I now have a relationship with my breath, an awareness of it that alerts me to imbalance; it's my internal compass. Do you trust yours?
For more information about my breathwork events, please click on my events page. For information about Alchemy of Breath, please click on the live links in this article.
May every breath you take fill you with the deep peace of the running wave, the stillness of the night sky and the strength of the mighty lion. You are so very worth it.
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